BC Liberals need Christy Clark all over the province, not stuck in Vancouver-Point Grey
Bruce A. Stewart
When it comes to polls, Mustel makes the BC Liberal brain trust happy, and Angus-Reid makes them miserable.
Either way, though, they’re not close enough to Adrian Dix and his BC NDP as less than one hundred days await until British Columbians vote.
Seats that normally would come home to the Liberals without working up a sweat will, this time, require a knock-down, drag-out fight to win. Visits (as in plural) by the Premier Christy Clark to whoop it up with the local candidate will matter — a lot.
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But there’s only one problem with that.
Christy Clark Clark barely eked out a win in Vancouver-Point Grey in the by-election of 2011 that allowed her to replace Gordon Campbell in his seat (after replacing him as the leader of the party). Her opponent, NDP candidate David Eby of the Pivot Legal Society, came very close to claiming the seat (as the New Democrats broke with grabbing a UBC type for this riding that includes the campus).
Eby is running against Clark again in the rematch. He’s already working the riding hard. And soundings on the ground show that Christy Clark Clark is either in an outright tie (best case interpretation) or coming from behind (worst case interpretation).
Either way, she can’t just count on her own personal race as “home and dry”, leaving her free to campaign for others around the province.
The BC Liberals have banked everything in this campaign on Christy Clark Clark.
Take a look at the party’s logo: if you just glance at it, the red letters in bold — BC and Christy — far outweigh the lighter weight blue letters of Liberal and Clark.
In other words, it’s the BC Christy party that’s being put forward.
Which, of course, is perfectly reasonable. She has the name recognition to try and help turn the tide in other ridings.
(Given, too, how many BC Liberal supporters are also federal Conservative supporters, and given that this time there’ll be BC Conservative candidates on most ballot papers in the province — they contested less than fifteen per cent of the seats in 2009 — any reminder to “vote Christy” is probably a good one.)
One of Clark’s problems, though, is that so much of her core team isn’t running for re-election.
A Kevin Falcon, for instance, could have been all over British Columbia helping backstop the party. But he’s standing down (and waiting in the wings to see Christy implode before deciding how permanent his exit is). Christy Clark Clark won’t have that kind of support: she’ll get, at best, an appearance or two (and probably close to home).
Vancouver-Point Grey, meanwhile, will be a different kind of challenge for Clark.
Effectively, it’s only residents of the riding who will be voting: the university is between sessions in May. Any residual students will be finishing up exams or frantically marking them throughout the campaign period — there’ll be little opportunity to get supporters to door knock, or vote early for Christy Clark Clark (early ballots were what saved her in her by-election run two years ago).
Eby, meanwhile, remains a well-known figure, and not just because he’s a common figure in the media on behalf of his work for Pivot Legal.
Eby has spent the past few years questioning decisions that have directly affected the voters of Vancouver-Point Grey, such as the sheer number of dedicated bike lanes (affecting traffic out of the riding into the central city) Vancouver City Council has built.
Choked streets like Point Grey Rd. and Cornwall Ave. may technically be a municipal problem, not a provincial problem, but residents only care that someone seems to feel their pain.
Unfortunately, when it comes to tapping into local issues, Clark can be a little tone-deaf. (She was equally so in her earlier stint in the legislature as the MLA for Port Moody-Westwood in the early 2000s: then, being Deputy Premier and Education Minister far outranked the concerns of her Port Moody and Coquitlam electors.)
In this, Christy Clark Clark is not unlike other senior figures in governments around the country, except that she’s following in Gordon Campbell’s footsteps. He, despite being Premier, found the time to be around the riding, talking with residents, handling their issues.
Perception is reality in politics, and the perception is that Clark doesn’t care the way Campbell did, and that Eby does.
For all that the polls are tending toward Clark losing her riding (and government) on May 14, it’s certainly true that the BC Liberals will pour resources from other ridings into Vancouver-Point Grey. Vancouver-Quilchena next door, for instance, has been a very safe Liberal seat for years.
But other seats nearby are also in trouble. Margaret MacDairmid, the health minister, in Vancouver-Fairview (which borders both Point Grey and Quilchena) is in deep trouble, running against George Heyman, the former head of the BC Goverment Employees’ Union and Executive Director of the Sierra Club of BC. (This is the riding current Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson represented for the BC NDP, defeating MacDairmid before leaving to municipal politics.) Others that were safer last time, like Vancouver-False Creek, will be in greater contention this time around, with less to spare to neighbouring ridings.
Christy Clark is needed everywhere in BC, and yet there’s little margin for error back home.
Clark’s problem is that even if the party loses, it needs to avoid the potential blowout scenario (as happened to the NDP in 2001, where they had only two seats against all Liberals). Saving seats all over BC — and most of the “winnables” are well outside the Lower Mainland, where campaigning for others and at home would be possible — is mandatory.
Ninety-nine days to election day, and the clock is ticking for Christy Clark in more ways than one.
Category: British Columbia